I Saw The Light was the first song I heard and I remember it was at one of those new-fangled Jeans Stores that were cropping up in Hamilton when I was in high school. I was there with my girlfriend and we were having a crafty pash in a dressing booth and the song came over the radio.
There had been stories about him I’d read in the NME and I knew he played all the instruments himself and was a kind of boy-wonder and instead of buying the jeans I went over the road to the record shop and purchased Something/Anything?
The music wasn’t what I expected at all and it covered a lot of territory – gentle and complex pure pop songs to dark sluggish rockers like Went to the Mirror, Little Red Lights or Black Maria. He went off in other less appealing tangents too like Gilbert and Sullivan moments but I was smitten with his melodies and production and I tried to imagine what it would be like to create such a beast of a double album playing and singing everything. Singing multi-part harmonies with yourself and having a blast alone in the studio.
Just over half way through the record Couldn’t I Just Tell You comes powering into things and you realise what a great rock clown he is at heart followed by Torch Song – one of the saddest and greatest songs of that ilk ever written
No one around me seemed to get him and that was part of the attraction. My hard rock friends thought him too pop with his teen angst love songs but I was a teenager prone to falling in love and could totally identify. My girlfriends didn’t like him much either so he became a kind of personal obsession.
I could tell, even with my limited self-taught and rudimentary song-writing aspirations, that the way he shaped a song, in whatever style he was writing in, was unique, consumate and ground-breaking. And his lyrics were human – he wasn’t writing about wizards in the same way as Zep, Sabb or Heep were. He wasn’t trying to be Dylan either. He was just laying out stories and opinions that seemed pretty clear.
In some ways the “Something/Anything?” album is a giant sketch pad with seven or so perfect Todd songs that just get better with age. It rambles on and makes its creator’s mind an open book.
Maybe it’s my age but when I was a teenager in H-Town it meant enough to me to make me want to write songs in a certain way and with a certain dignity.